Integrity (from Inside Jazz Kansas City)


December 21, 2015

"Blogging is hard."

So is living the life of a musician. This website has been neglected for a couple months, after a pretty solid start, and for that, the contributors apologize. 


See, the main contributors to the site are working hard at their art, and for that there is really no apology necessary. The whole point of this site was to provide content you can't really get anywhere else except from the minds and souls of the working musicians in and out of Kansas City. We're pretty proud of what we've done so far, and we're looking forward to diving back into things - when we can. Blogging is hard - but hopefully when we do so, it's done with more artistic integrity specific to this city than you can find elsewhere. Personally, I'd rather read 1,000 words written with some semblance of insight than... well, than something less. 

That brings me to the concept of integrity. It's really something that I hold dear to my heart. If you're going to be something, be it. If you're going to say you're something and you aren't there yet, become that. Live it. Strive for it. Don't take time off from it. If you do let it slip, acknowledge that you did, and come back to it with the intent of making it a reality. 

It's easy to hide from integrity. You don't need it in order to succeed. You don't need it to be liked. Loved, even. Integrity, as it were, is hard. 

Integrity is also hard to capture in music. Just because you've got something you play or sing or write doesn't mean you actually have to believe in it. That's a dirty little secret of the jazz industry - even those of us who are extra-dedicated to this life don't always put everything we've got into what we're saying. And that sucks for you, the listener, who wants a sincere and authentic expression through abstract music. 

But we work at it. Hopefully, just as in life, we work toward it in our art. 

Today, I'm thinking heavily about integrity. How sometimes we possess it, but sometimes we avoid it. So, I did what a musician does: I wrote a song, which I've uploaded here. It's not even "done" (are they ever, really?). But I wanted to share it. 

The compositional process is something that can come from anywhere. I'll represent it here with some free-association business. Today for this song, I just thought of examples of integrity, and how I think integrity might sound, if it were made into an abstracted music. I thought about how the word itself sounds when you speak it. I did the usual musician thing: I experimented with chords, rhythms. I also did that thing that I always do, which is to utilize descending bass notes. Unoriginal? Maybe. Authentically how I hear music? Definitely. Eventually, I came up with this sketch - it's a repetitive melody in the treble voice over a moving set of bass notes, in an odd time signature. I didn't intend for it to be in 7, but it is. But, then it's not. Why? The melody led me that direction. Yeah, I've got the "triad-add-2-omit-3-over-the-3rd" thing that I like so much. That's how I hear things. I sure wish I could compose like Peter Schlamb or Terence Blanchard or whoever else, but I hear the way I hear, and I write the way I write. No flurries of 16th notes in this one. Yet. I've gotta figure out a counter-melody, maybe. I play the trumpet. This works well without trumpet. Hmm. 

I could (and would) talk more about it, but I've gotta get back to work. I hope you get something out of the song, and perhaps even a bit of insight into something that me and a bunch of musicians feel about things. More later, hopefully. Blogging is hard, you know.

Clint Ashlock